Saturday, May 26, 2012

Settling Down...

Cedar Waxwing
I was unable to post last weekend due to my son's college graduation. I ran into Paul, an avid bird watcher and the highlights we saw or heard last Sunday, included: peewees, a couple of blue-gray gnatcatchers (glimpse only), a wood duck, a mallard with over eight little yellow fluffy babies following mom all around the pond, the phoebe in nest adjacent to the previous one starting a 2nd brood and a pair of green herons flying down the Charles River flyway.

The migration excitement has definitely quieted down. Today it was 70 degrees at 7:00 a.m. and a little hazy. The business of nesting and rearing young is in earnest.

Common Yellow Throat Male
Donna's Poppies

Heard and saw the usual in the lower gardens i.e., robins, house wrens, tree swallows, yellow warblers, catbirds, mourning doves and goldfinches. However, I heard the tell-tale high pitch noise of the waxwing and finally saw this beautiful bird doing gymnastics in the tree in the middle of the gardens. As I was watching it, I heard the witchety witchety of the common yellow throat. They're so elusive in a large shrub, but finally, after several minutes of searching it appeared towards the edge where I could see it.

Wild Turkey
Several cowbirds were strutting around someones garden and Donna's poppies are spectacular! I saw something quite large in my peripheral vision, and realized a large turkey had come from the golf course side and was marching down the path headed towards some cover. I followed it and it knew I was following, so we both sped up and finally I was able to get a picture of it.

The invasive multi-flora roses with little white flowers are in full bloom, along with raspberries. I was thinking about the word "raspberries" today and wondering if the thorns have anything to do with the word "rasp" used for a tool that has sharp edges. I'll have to look that up. I've been watching the meadow to see if the planted cosmos would turn up, but not a sign of one so far. The wildflowers are in short supply after the snow dumping fiasco last year, but a few are making their way back. I saw some ox eye daisies and some purple clover. At least that's something…

The upper gardens were pretty quiet. The tree swallows are feeding young so they're pretty low key. An oriole couple had some little argument, but then made up. Lots of vegetables are coming up - the lettuces are almost formed into heads for picking. One gardener had some beautiful foxgloves blooming just outside their fence.

No excitement in the pond save for some frogs with their deep-throated noises. There's a robin nest in a tree adjacent. We saw her building it last weekend, but now all is quiet and she is probably sitting in it.

Saw a few tufties and then some barn swallows down by the river and of course the warbling vireos down there were warbling away!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Bird Walk

Our Group
Today was the Mother's Day Bird Walk, led by Alison Leary and Haynes Miller, two excellent bird watchers. It was co-sponsored by the Newton Conservators and the Friends of Nahanton Park.

We started at the Charles River entrance where we heard the constant warbling of a warbling vireo. Saw some orioles, titmice, a barn swallow, downy woodpecker and catbirds. The phoebe is in her nest and looks like one of the babies is sitting up and looking rather large!

Baltimore Oriole
As we walked through the woods, we saw a male wood duck in the far end of the pond as well as lots of turtles basking on logs and a veery was seen nearby. As walked through the soccer field, we saw yellow warblers, orioles and a magnolia warbler. As we neared the little rotary, alison heard and saw a glimpse of a black-throated blue warbler and we also saw the northern parula, a goldfinch, and a green heron flying overhead.

House wren
It was sunny and comfortable as we toured the lower gardens where we saw tree swallows, song sparrows, house wrens, robins, mourning doves and lots of yellow warblers. We then headed to the upper gardens and saw more house wrens, cedar waxwings and finally saw the striking black, white and red, rose-breasted grosbeak singing it lyrical song high atop a tree.

Lady Slipper
We then cut through the woods to walk around the JCC to see what might be in the woods. The lady slippers are in full bloom. We heard and then saw the red-bellied woodpecker. A chipping sparrow lured us up to the JCC in hopes of also finding some pine warblers, but we never did see them. As we continued through the woods, we heard the KREEEET of a great-crested flycatcher and were finally able to view it in a bare branch in the distance.

Scarlet Tanager
Black and White Warbler
We ended up in Woodcock meadow and stayed there for quite a while as there were two scarlet tanagers, a least flycatcher, a juvenile orchard oriole, a black and white warbler, cedar waxwings, an Eastern kingbird, American Redstart and a cowbird to keep us looking in every direction.

For Haynes' Official List, see below:

Canada Goose 5
Wood Duck 1 m
Ring-billed Gull 2
Chimney Swift 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 4
Least Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Great Crested Flycatcher 3
Warbling Vireo 5
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 4
Tree Swallow 14
Barn Swallow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 4
Wood Thrush 2
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing 6
Black-and-white Warbler 1
American Redstart 2
Northern Parula 3
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 6
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 6
Scarlet Tanager 2 m
Northern Cardinal 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird 5
Orchard Oriole 2 1 m, 1 im m
Baltimore Oriole 12
American Goldfinch 4

Weekend Update

Male wood duck in tree!
When I arrived at the park on Saturday, I was greeted by the "teacher, teacher" of the ovenbird. It was in the woods right near the parking lot. I walked in to the woods a few feet to look for it and when I looked up, imagine my surprise when I saw a wood duck on a branch overhead! I thought wow - this is a good way to start the day.

As it turned out, it took at least twenty minutes of looking for the ovenbird, even though it was right overhead, when finally it hopped to the ground very close to where I was standing. Its camouflage is so perfect for the leaf litter they scrounge around in. I got a really good look at it and then it disappeared into the woods.

Two different wood thrush were situated on trees in the lower gardens on either side of the area that has now been hacked up and has the compost bins and they each stayed on their same branches and sang for over three hours!

The lower gardens were so busy, that I barely got to the upper gardens. There were lots of yellow warblers singing, house wrens bubbling, male and female orioles, robins, flickers, catbirds, blue jays, tree swallows, red winged blackbirds and some savannah sparrows. I caught a glimpse of the American redstart and had a long and close look at a beautiful chestnut sided warbler. Saw more than one magnolia warbler and a northern parula. As I thought about heading to the upper gardens, I saw something high in a tree. I was hoping to see the black-billed cuckoo that someone saw on Friday, but instead, it was a beautiful indigo bunting - my first sighting in breeding plumage.

Sunday, before the Mother's day bird walk, the only thing I saw that we didn't see later of note, was a beautiful white-crowned sparrow.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May is for the Warblers

Yearling Baltimore Oriole
After reading the recent posts about all the warblers from Suzette, I found myself compelled to visit Nahanton Tuesday before work. I arrived to a overcast and drizzly day at the park, and I was hoping that this more dismal weather would keep the birds active for a little longer. The first thing I noticed as I was walking down the path was the jubilant and bubbly song of the house wren accompanied by the songs of the Song Sparrows and Yellow Warblers. Then a few clear liquid whistled notes reached my years and I immediately thought “Baltimore Orioles!” and indeed a yearling male / female appeared in the plowed brush immediately by the lower gardens. Unlike the brilliant orange of the adult male, this bird was more washed out yellow-orange.

House Wren
To the right of the path to the lower gardens a lot of the brush has been cleared away and while I was wondering why, the wrens, orioles and catbirds didn’t seem to mind and they spent lots of time working the debris. It appeared to me that the oriole was gathering fine grassy material making me think of their hanging woven nests that would make any architect proud. I have yet to find an oriole nest at Nahanton, but I’m sure they must be there.

In the corner of the garden I heard the loud and emphatic “TEACHER TEACHER TEACHER” of an Ovenbird. This is a warbler I’ve only seen once, but I’m always hearing his distinctive song. I tried to “pish” out the Ovenbird, but instead a brilliant male Redstart appeared. I had been hearing a song like a Black and White Warbler, like a squeaky wheel, but I also know that Redstarts are notoriously tricky songsters and can also imitate Black-and-White and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Then In the very back corner of the lower gardens a Common Yellowthroat was singing his “witchity-witchity-witchity” song and showing off his black facemask.

I made my way over to the upper gardens and ended up seeing two more Baltimore Orioles! Another yearling or female and then finally a splendid bright orange male appeared, though no more oriole songs. I managed a glimpse of the yellow eye-brow of a Savannah Sparrow, and some twittering Goldfinches overhead drew my eye upwards where I saw a smaller heron flying over. It was probably a Green Heron, but all I know for sure was that it was smaller than a Great Blue.

Can you spot the Canada Warbler?
I was just about to head back to my car when I caught a flash of movement in the trees adjacent to the field. This movement turned out to be a Black-and-white Warbler, who drew my attention to a warbler sulking in the underbrush. When I got my binoculars I caught yellow under parts, yellow spectacles and a black streak by the eye, leading me to get my hopes up for a Kentucky Warbler. This warbler flushed and we played a game of cat and mouse across the edge of the woods closest to the soccer field. I soon realized that the bird I was chasing had a much more complicated song than the “churry churry churry” of the Kentucky. And that was when I saw the black necklace across the entirely yellow under parts and I realized that this was a Canada Warbler! Could this be the same individual that Mary Lou found on Friday? I tried hard to catch a picture but was mostly thwarted, but I was able to get a very busy 30 second audio recording. I followed him around the garden and he always seemed to want to stay just far enough into the undergrowth that I could keep catching glimpses of him.

Today I’ll leave you with the auditory recording that includes the Canada, but the recording is quite a cacophony as the birds don’t always take turns. Try listening to the beginning of the clip a couple of times to see how many birds or warblers you can identify.  The clip will repeat twice then after a 10 second delay the individual warbler songs will play with a label so if you aren’t ready to have the calls identified be sure to stop the player. The text below will also be about the recordings.

I can hear 7 species including 4 warblers. I filtered some of the lower frequency sounds to decrease the street noise to better hear the birds.
The Canada Warbler sings his loud whistled warbled notes at 2 and 8 seconds . A better recording can be heard here.
A Yellow Warbler's "sweet sweet sweet little-more-sweet" song is at 11 and 28 seconds.
The Black-throated Green Warbler's buzzy "zoo zee zo zo ze" is at 6, 12, and 23 seconds.
A Black-and-white Warbler's "weeza weeza weeza" can be hear at 21 seconds.
The House Wren's bubbly and exuberant song starts with a harsh chatter at 4, 14, 26 seconds.
The sixth species is a Tufted Titmouse, who can be heard calling "Here here here" or "Peter, peter, peter" throughout in the background. And ever so faintly a Red-winged Blackbird's "Conklaree" can be heard with other blackbird call notes. Though the call at 24 seconds I can't quite place, maybe a Yellow Warbler?

P.S. The next day I found a deer tick firmly attached to the back of my knee, so please remember to be care full and check for ticks! And if you find a tick attached you might want to call your Dr. and think about Lyme Disease.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Magnolia Warbler!

Today was quite foggy early in the a.m., but by the time I left, it was beautiful and sunny.

I'll keep this short as many of yesterday's sightings were similar.

A spider's work
Saw the Nashville again in the big tree in the lower gardens and heard it singing. Several black and white warblers were in various spots around the upper and lower gardens. While looking at one in the woods, as I walked the path to the upper gardens, I saw a different warbler with a lot of black, white and gray and at first I was thinking it was a yellow rump, but then I realized the yellow wasn't just a splash under the wings and it wasn't on the tail, it was predominant, and there were quite a lot of dark spots near its throat. I took out my Sibley and it was definitely a Magnolia warbler! Later, saw a palm warbler skulking in some shrubbery.

A little, dark brown mole made its way around the edges of some of the gardens. Guess it was good the gardeners didn't see that!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Exciting Finds!

Yellow Warbler
Yesterday, I got an email from Mary Lou, saying she had seen a Canada warbler at the park in the morning! I rushed down there around 4:30 p.m., but no sign of it although I did see Skulker, the hermit thrush! Turned out that Bev had seen it as well. Apparently, it was quite striking.

So, this morning I got up and arrived at the park around 7:00 a.m. It was cloudy and about 52 degrees. There was a veritable orchestra of various bird song going on. Tree swallows chittering, yellow warblers vying for best songster, chipping sparrows doing their thing and lots of little warbler sounds. In fact, the oak tree at the corner of the parking lot and the path to the lower gardens was a hub of warbler and songbird activity. I must have stood there for half an hour just watching the goings ons. Black and white warblers were flitting around as well as yellow rumps of both sexes. Finally, we're seeing more females.
The lower gardens were packed with goldfinches, catbirds, house wrens bubbling, house finches and my first Eastern Kingbird sitting atop a Tree of Heaven. Red winged blackbirds were making a racket, and a white throated sparrow sang in the distance.

Unlikely couple!
Cowbird male
Cowbird female
Then, Mary Lou appeared! She was hoping to see the Canada warbler again and I was hoping to see it with her. Bev even drove by in hopes of seeing it too, but couldn't stay long. Unfortunately, it did not reappear, but lots of other birds did, including a Great Crested flycatcher (sadly, I never saw it)! Mary Lou and her friend spotted a bird high up in a tree that at first glance appeared to be a parula. On closer inspection, Mary Lou thought she saw orange on the throat and some black on the head instead of the yellow that we thought we saw and was thinking Blackburnian. Much discussion followed but a definite identification was inconclusive as the bird was gone. We headed to the upper gardens…

Still no sign of the bluebirds. It was fairly quiet up there and as we were leaving we saw a flash of yellow,  and some gray. We thought it was a Nashville, but wanted to get a better look. Thanks to Mary Lou's good ears, we found the bird had flown across the gardens to an oak tree where we finally had a really good look at it. It was definitely a Nashville!

Heard the warbling vireo from Woodock meadow and decided to cut through the woods by the JCC. I almost said goodbye to Mary Lou as I wanted to walk by the pond again, but I'm so glad I didn't. As we walked through the woods, the beautiful flute-like song of the wood thrush floated in the air. It's back!

Mary Lou was still thinking about the possibility of a blackburnian so we went back to the big old oak tree and lo and behold, there it was, towards the very top of the tree. This time, the light was a little different and we both got a great look at it - it's throat was dark orange and very bright. She was right! Our parting shot was a blue headed vireo that had flown into a crab apple tree in the lower gardens and sang its beautiful song, just 10 feet from where we watched.